The mystery of Marbury Hall and 'The Marbury Lady' Northwich Cheshire UK.
This place has been a hotbed for ghost sightings for many years, it's ghostly activity also hit the headlines in the 1970s and for the wrong reasons, so let us firstly look at this incident.
The Marbury Lady.
In the late 1970s an old ghost known as the Marbury or White Lady, which traditionally had haunted Marbury Hall and Park area, began to make headlines again when, during the summer months, she was several times sighted in The Hollows, Marbury Lane. Her 'reign of terror' came to 'an unseemly end' when one night she was seen by Michael Newton, then of Crocus Street, Barnton. He described how, when driving past, he saw:- "An eerie light in the trees. It was a figure with a basic human shape. My wife, Carol, was asleep and didn't see it, so when I told her, she didn't take me seriously. We went back to have another look and it appeared again." (This time between the gateposts of the old Hall.) Having driven 'at' the ghost and skidding to a halt, "I got out of the car and ran towards it, screaming blue murder. (But then) It seemed to be coming towards me, so I turned and ran back to the car. Then I realised it had fallen to the ground and was just lying there (and) I heard the sound of people running away."
On walking up to, and touching the 'White Lady' he began to laugh. The 'ghost' turned out to be a fishing rod, a polystyrene head, a pair of old bicycle handlebars, and a torch, all 'veiled' under a nylon sheet. The 'ghost' was taken into custody at Northwich Police Station, where local police said they would keep her for about a month, and then like all ghosts, she would be laid to rest.
However, there is a twist to this saga, I am someone who spoke to one of the guys who staged this event. I will share what I know later, but let us firstly cover the actual story about the Marbury Lady, which to be fair, is somewhat mixed. Was she 'an Egyptian Princess' brought back by one of the early Earls Barrymore? Was 'she' a sarcophagus/mummy, brought back from his extensive travels, which through 'strangeness', had accrued 'her' own history? And what about her supposed horse, the mare, Marbury Dunne?
Marbury Dunne was a
famous mare belonging to the Smith-Barry family. The horse is buried in
Marbury Hall / Park grounds. (near the Ice-house I seem to remember).
'Marbury Dunne formed the stake in a wager, that she could run from
London to Marbury between the Sunrise and Sunset of one day. This she
apparently did, with time to spare. Unfortunately, in the excitement
which followed, the mare found access to a water trough, quenched her
thirst and died from the shock.
The epitaph on her gravestone read:-
'' Here lies Marbury Dunne,
The finest horse that ever run,
Clothed in a linen sheet,
With silver hoofs upon her feet. ''
However, as far as the White Lady of Marbury is concerned, Marbury Dunne lived and died long after the Lady's alleged life at Marbury....so unless they enjoined in another place......?
Now back to the 'Ghost' in custody at Northwich Police Station.
The appearance of this lady was shortly afterwards described in the press as a 'one-off prank', bearing no resemblance to the figure seen previously by motorists in those recent weeks. (Well, there is a certain view that no one likes their experience dismissed out of hand); however, to continue:-
'An anonymous phone call to the press insisted that the White Lady 'captured' by electrician Mike Newton, had been dreamed up (by the prankster) only after reports that the legendary ghost at Marbury had been seen again.
'Mr Stewart Hubbard aged 28, of 20 Hodge Lane, Hartford, one of the four drivers who witnessed the first of the recent sightings, said: "The dummy now at Northwich Police Station is definitely not what we saw that night. That figure did definitely not glow at all, and it definitely wore a cowl, not a veil. I drove past it three times and got a good look at it. Also, the figure we saw was taller and stood with its cloak reaching right down into the grass."
And his views were strengthened by the anonymous caller who
rang the press after reading the previous week's story on how the ghost
was captured. The caller, who insisted on keeping his identity secret
said: "Quite contrary to what has been suggested elsewhere, the 'Marbury
ghost' prank was thought up only after the stories in the press that
the ghost had been sighted by people passing in their cars.
It was a practical, one-off joke, carried out by men, not youths. They regret it now because they realise that the distraction it caused to drivers might have resulted in accidents.
We actually know one of the men involved in the prank. He helped to make the effigy. They have lived in Comberbach all their life, and while I have never seen the 'Marbury Lady' I know a number of people who firmly believe they have - one only about a year ago when he saw a shadowy figure drift through hedges near the Hollows."
Among other people who believe they have seen the Marbury Lady, is Mr Derek Baker (then of Broadacre, Comberbach). He said: "What I saw does not fit in with the traditional description of the Lady, but I believe I saw her. I was driving through the Hollows on the evening of May 16th 1973, travelling towards Comberbach.
I had just gone over the bridge when in my headlights I saw a woman standing among the trees on the right-hand side. Her face was extremely pale, she had long, dark hair and was wearing an ankle-length coat which looked mauvish in colour.
What I can say is that the 'staged ghost' was done AFTER the reported sightings. Mr Newton's story also misses some vital information. Yes, he did stop and get out of the car, but as he walked towards the Effigy, my mate and his chums decided to leg it and threw the fishing rod compete with the effigy at him. Mr Newton was then heard to scream, which suggested he thought the ghost was, in fact, attacking him, it fell close to his feet, therefore, he realised it was, in fact, an effigy. Mr Newton then returned and picked it up.
I question who actually did phone Northwich Police Station. I am far from convinced he was part of the original party who made the effigy, had he been, he would have made mention of the fact the effigy was thrown at Mr Newton. He may well have been in the knowledge of what happened, a select few were, but not the full facts, and certainly, none of the original party would have made that call anyway as the Police were not happy with the prank.
As the original witness's state: As she looked so pale I thought there must have been an accident nearby; so I braked and reversed to where I had seen her. But when I got there, there wasn't anyone around and I'm sure nobody could have walked off in that short time. It really scared me and when I drove through the Hollows again a few days later the thought of it made me break out in a sweat."
Mr George Gibbon, of Marston Hall.
"When I was a teenager I knew an old woman who had worked at Marbury Hall and said she was involved in the burial of the Egyptian Lady in the Hall's grounds. She claimed the coffin was buried among the rhododendron bushes near the boat-house, not in the rose bed. She confirmed the story about the body being twice moved to the family vault at Great Budworth Parish Church but having to be returned to the Hall, because of unusual happenings each time it left its resting place.
Judging from her age though I would imagine the burial took place about the turn of the century rather than in the 1930's, when the Hall became a country club. Their was a real Egyptian Mummy case at the Hall. It used to stand on the grand staircase.
People remember seeing it when the
Smith-Barry family's furniture was sold, but no idea what became of it.
It was a black, traditional mummy-shaped case with gold and red
'One of the Lords Barrymore had been interested in Egyptology and in Ancient Greece and Rome. At the sale of the furniture, there were a number of ancient objects like Greek urns and Roman monuments being offered. All that is known of the Marbury Lady have been told by other people, but I have always understood that the story of an Egyptian Lady living at the hall, is true.
A Shortened Legend of the White Lady of Marbury.
'Over the years her ghost has been seen a number of times along Marbury Lane, and especially at the Hollows, but the story of why she should return to haunt the area has become confused. The legend goes back to the second half of the 19th century, when Marbury Hall, then in its heyday, was a magnificent building. The ancient manor-house was rebuilt in the 1840's in the grand French Style, by its owner, the Earl of Barrymore.
The manor, as early as the reign of Henry III, was the property or residence of the ancient family of Merbury or Marbury, which became extinct by the death of Richard Marbury Esq., in 1684. In the year 1708, it was purchased, under a decree of the High Court of Chancery, by Richard, Earl Rivers, of Rock Savage, whose daughter brought it in marriage to James, Earl of Barrymore; having passed to the Earl's second son, the Hon. Richard Barry, and on his decease, without issue, to the eldest son of his next brother, James Hugh Smith Barry, and is now possessed (1851) by his descendant of the same name.
From Marbury Lane it was an impressive sight with a fine, red shale drive leading up to the building, which had carved stonework and two pointed towers, each topped with a golden orb. Today, only the gateposts and railings are left. The Hall itself was demolished in 1969. The stories begin with Lord Barrymore, one of those intrepid Victorian travellers who used his money to see the world.
While on a visit to Egypt he met a beautiful dark-haired lady, and brought her home with him, to the dismay of his family.
The lady may well have been a mystery to local people in her own time. Little is known of her today. Most say she was Egyptian, while some think she may have been French, but whether as Housekeeper or Mistress, she remained at the Hall until her death.
It is here that different tales emerge. Many believe she came to an untimely and sticky end at the hands of the Earl himself when he discovered she had a secret lover.
This concludes that she used an underground passageway which stretched from under the Hall, to the nearby Mere, where her young suitor would wait for her. But one night, unknown to either of them, the Lady was followed by the Earl.
When his suspicions were confirmed, he made his way back to the Hall, and angrily waited for her to return. As she mounted the steps from the tunnel, she was stabbed to death.
Another version of the story is based on, or shall we say supported by, the testimonies of two (then) old local people. The Lady, on her deathbed, (following an illness allegedly caused by the British climate) made a will expressing the wish that her body be embalmed - (a practice then being experimented with by some French and English surgeons). - and that it (her body) be kept at the Hall of which she had grown very fond.
Her wishes were carried out, and her mummified body was placed in a coffin under boards at the foot of a spiral staircase. The next generation of Barrymores were not so struck with the idea of having a Mummy in the house, and had it removed to the family vault at Gt.Budworth parish church.
It was soon after this belated funeral that the hauntings began.
Frightened villagers told of seeing the phantom of a lady dressed in white, while at the Hall itself, there were many strange incidents, including servants' bells ringing for no apparent reason. (Why would she pick on the servants particularly...or is that only one part of the story?).
The effect of this on the family was such that the body was removed from the vault and taken back to its old resting place.
The 'Hauntings' immediately stopped; and the general memory of them faded. But as it did, the Barrymore's distaste at having a 'mummy' under the stairs, grew once more to having its second removal to the church. The Lady's remains were again placed in the family vault.
The Hauntings began Again, and Again, the family had the coffin returned to the Hall. This time, the Mummy was placed in a narrow. lead-lined coffin, (with a glass panel over her face?) and remained in its place under the staircase, near the servants quarters, until the 1930's.
Shortly before the Second World War, the Smith-Barry family, descendants of the Barrymores, vacated the Hall and it was turned into a Country Club. The Head Gardener took the coffin ( although there is dispute as to whether it was first thrown into and retrieved from the Mere)... and buried it in the Rose Garden. (Which led down from the house to the Mere.)
These latter stories are supported by in 1959,
at least two people who remembered seeing the coffin. One was the
daughter of a maid to the Barrymore family who, as a child, crept in
through the servants' door, to see the 'strange box'. The other , a man
in his 70's, remembered seeing the actual mummy.
Even German Prisoners of War , housed at the hall, reported sightings.
In 1978 a Mrs M.T.Jones, of Higher Marston, reported that she had been employed by the Smith-Barry family as a maid for just over two years, in the early 1930's. "When I worked there, I had to clean the large oak panelled room at the foot of the spiral staircase where the mummy had lain, and I often slept in the Hall all alone, in a large room, if it was too late to go home.
I was born near there and as a child often used to play at the Hollows. Later on in life I would walk through them late at night on my way home. But neither I nor any of my friends saw or heard the ghost and I don't believe the Marbury Lady is walking about."
Mrs Jone's parents, who also worked at the Hall, saw the mummy in its coffin. "Both my father and mother told me they saw the coffin and that the section of the lid which covered the face was made of glass. The body inside was embalmed, but it wasn't wrapped in strips of cloth and they said they saw the face. By the time I went to work there, the coffin had been buried, either in the rose garden, or near to where the swimming pool is now."
A letter from a 'visitor' the same week states:-
"My family had connections with Marbury Hall from around 1860 to the 30's [1930's] without a break. In the '20's and '30's I was able to visit the Hall on many occasions. I saw all there was to see there including the mummy. You can take it from me that it was an ordinary Egyptian mummy such as are on exhibition at many museums today. I never heard it spoken of or referred to as anything else but the old mummy. I had never heard of its trips to Great Budworth and back before reading articles in the press. It was kept by the spiral staircase in a wooden chest, together with a lot of old maps and papers etc. I knew the man who buried it, and I was always under the impression that he was the only person who knew where it was buried. On one occasion I was taken round the whole collection of pictures. My companion was able to tell me the names of all the members of the family portrayed and quite a bit about their history. Some of the pictures were very big and portrayed two or three generations together. One, named 'Breakfast at Marbury Hall', showed the men dressed in Hunting Pink. On the main staircase was a portrait of a lady. My companion told me her name and also some of her history. There was no mystery about her, but he said that if there is a ghost there he thinks it is of her. She did not come from abroad. Much nearer home than that."
Returning to the sightings, there is
one aspect which cannot satisfactorily be explained:- Many of the
earlier sightings were of a lady on a white horse, a spectre which was
once said to have caused the death of a coachman. This/The Coach, with a
full complement of passengers, was travelling through Marbury when, a
woman suddenly rode out into it's path.
The coachman frantically pulled on its reins and the horses reared off to one side, throwing him from his seat as the carriage overturned. As the dust settled, the shocked and bruised travellers crawled from the wreckage of the coach. Among the baggage strewn across the road was the body of the driver, dead, although he had been thrown clear, with the imprint of a hoof-mark on his forehead. Neither the Lady nor her horse, were anywhere to be seen.
The case of the Marbury Lady remains open.